What to look for in an employee engagement partner

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Written by Kate Pritchard

Employee engagement (EE) has never been more vital to business performance – and our series on getting started with engagement aims to help organizations build a strategy and deploy it effectively. So far, we’ve covered:

In this final blog in the series, we’re going to look at how you can accelerate your employee engagement program by working with an external partner.

Bringing in an outside employee engagement consultancy can provide resources and skills that your HR team doesn’t have. An external partner can help deliver faster, more comprehensive employee engagement results and boost business performance. However, to gain these benefits, it is vital you choose the right employee engagement partner for your situation. Here are five key areas to consider when making your selection.

The right expertise and understanding of employee engagement

You want to work with a partner with the skills and knowledge to support you in achieving your goals. Rather than just focusing on the overall experience, look at their work with organizations like yours – and at the expertise of those that will be working with you on a day-to-day basis. Are they experienced in this area? How have they helped other organizations to achieve success? Ensure that the chemistry is right – have they demonstrated that they understand your needs and any constraints you face? They need to be approachable and happy to share their expertise, essentially acting as part of your extended team.

Trusted and supportive

Employee engagement programs involve your people and their personal data. It’s therefore imperative that your partner (and their technology) is entirely secure, protects confidentiality, and is compliant with legislation such as GDPR.

As a partner, they need to be open, transparent and committed to helping you meet your goals, providing full support on both the technology and business side. Check with their current customers on their experiences and ensure that they have the right processes and certifications in place to protect your – and your employees’ – data.

Flexible to your changing requirements

When it comes to employee engagement, every company’s needs are different. And the pandemic has shown that requirements can change very rapidly. For example, many organizations have increased the frequency of listening after switching to remote working to ensure they engage with and support their staff.

Therefore, you need to look for a partner flexible in how they operate, rather than delivering a rigid ‘one size fits all approach. Engagement partnerships are typically multi-year programs, so your provider needs to change how they support you as your requirements evolve.

The same applies to their technology – you want access to an employee engagement survey platform that can handle a full range of surveys through the same interface, enabling you to bring results together and minimize set-up time. It must have design flexibility, too, allowing you to customize the look and feel of surveys. Your employee surveys should be able to seamlessly match your corporate branding and therefore resonate with your employees when they complete them.

A scalable platform for current and future needs

Choosing the right technology can make the difference between success and failure in your employee engagement program, so take the time to understand the solutions potential partners are proposing fully. Is it scalable enough to grow as your organization or requirements change, and can it carry out the full range of employee engagement surveys, from the annual survey to weekly pulses? Can it be extended beyond HR, such as to measure the customer and the employee experience?

Some employee survey platforms can be complex to use, so look for one that is easy for managers to interact with. They should require minimal training and help you to take control of your engagement program.

The technology you choose has to be powerful and scalable and meet the needs of the wider organization. Ensure it includes in-built reporting against business KPIs and is open and easy to integrate with your wider technology stack. Technology doesn’t stand still, so check that the provider has a clear product development roadmap that it will share with you and that you can contribute to.

As we’ve stressed before, listening to employees is just the first step. You need to act effectively on the insight you gather, involving your people in solving the issues that engagement surveys highlight. Therefore, your platform should include action planning and ideation capabilities as standard, enabling you to close the loop around feedback all within the same solution.

A strong, partnership approach

One of the major reasons for working with an external employee engagement partner is that they have expertise that your team hasn’t yet developed. While some organizations may be happy to outsource running surveys to their partner on an ongoing basis, a growing number want to increase their capabilities so that they can take over their program over time. For example, they may require complete support in year one, but then build up their skills to become self-sufficient in year two, creating and running their own employee engagement surveys.

That means you should pick a partner that can flex the support it offers as your needs change. They should be happy to transfer knowledge to your people over time, at the pace that suits your business.

Choosing the right partner to support your employee engagement program is vital to success. Drilling down into these five areas will help ensure you build a long-term relationship that is flexible and will scale to meet your changing needs.